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Wizards' 'second-tier' picks up slack

January 11, 2007 12:50 am

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Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson (right) crashes into Chicago's Ben Gordon during the first half last night. Stevenson scored 13 points. spwizards0111b.jpg

Wizards center Etan Thomas knocks the ball away from Chicago counterpart Michael Sweetney during the second half last night. The Wizards won the contest, 113-103.

By ADAM HIMMELSBACH
By ADAM HIMMELSBACH

WASHINGTON--It's rare for the Wizards' trio of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to be outscored by their opponent's three leading scorers.

Last night, however, the Chicago Bulls' top gunners got the best of Washington's triumvirate.

For the Wizards, that turned out to be nothing more than a statistical anomaly, as their lesser-known players were perfect side-dishes, leading their team to a 113-103 victory at the Verizon Center.

Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Jarvis Hayes, all of whom average less than 10 points per game, tallied 15, 13 and 10, respectively last night.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon combined for 78 points; Arenas, Jamison and Butler totaled only 64. But it did not matter.

"It's a total team effort when you have balanced scoring like that," Daniels said. "Gilbert can't score 40 every night, so it's the job of the supporting cast to pick things up."

The Wizards topped the 100-point mark for the 18th consecutive time. The Bulls are the last team to hold Washington below 100, as they took a 112-94 victory in Chicago on Dec. 2.

And that is about the time the Wizards morphed into one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They've won 14 of their last 18 games, and at 20-14, they own the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference. If the current spree continues, Washington has a legitimate chance to enter the All-Star break with the conference's best record, as it is just two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (22-12).

"We just have to stay focused," Arenas said, "and continue winning games."

The next two will come on the road against the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs. The Wizards are 14-3 this season at the Verizon Center, but just 6-11 away from it.

Slowly, this team is grabbing the attention of the nation's capital. Last night's game was a rare mid-week sellout, as the fans sprinkled the now-nightly "MVP!" chants on Arenas.

There was very little for the home fans to cheer about in the opening minutes, though. A 3-pointer by Chris Duhon gave the Bulls an 11-2 lead, and the Wizards went 6 minutes, 25 seconds without converting their first field goal.

But that was about as good as it would get for Chicago (20-16). The Wizards closed the period with a 25-7 run that was capped in the most improbable way.

With two seconds left, Arenas took an inbounds pass near edge of the Bulls' free-throw line. The point guard said he heard Bulls coach Scott Skiles yell for Hinrich (33 points) to foul Arenas, since Chicago was not yet in a penalty situation.

So after taking one dribble, Arenas attempted a shot from about 75 feet as Hinrich cuffed his right forearm over Arenas' wrists. Skiles received a technical foul when he argued the call, and Arenas made all four of the ensuing free throws--three for the foul, and one for the technical.

The Wizards led 46-43 at halftime, and Stevenson stretched the lead to 11 when he scored eight points over the period's first 3:50.

"They came out fast and Stevenson got it going," Skiles said. "We were on them, but they've got several guys that can flat jump over us and shoot."

Chicago pulled within 84-82 with 7:30 left in the game, but Daniels keyed a 12-0 run with a 3-pointer and a strong drive to the basket that resulted in a layup. The Wizards maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Butler continued his push for all-star consideration, finishing with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Wizards also welcomed back center Etan Thomas, who had missed the previous 13 games because of a sprained ankle. Thomas had five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

"He had a good showing for the first time out," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of Thomas.

WIZARDS 113, BULLS 103

CHICAGO (103)

Nocioni 6-11 7-7 20, Deng 4-12 5-5 13, Wallace 2-6 0-0 4, Hinrich 11-21 5-5 33, Duhon 1-6 0-0 3, Gordon 7-16 6-6 25, T.Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Sefolosha 0-0 0-0 0, Sweetney 1-2 3-4 5, Griffin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-76 26-27 103.

WASHINGTON (113)

Butler 6-17 14-17 26, Jamison 7-15 0-0 18, Haywood 2-5 0-0 4, Stevenson 6-11 1-2 13, Arenas 5-16 8-8 20, E.Thomas 2-3 1-1 5, Daniels 5-7 4-5 15, Hayes 4-8 0-0 10, Blatche 1-3 0-0 2, Mason 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 38-86 28-33 113.

Chicago

18

25

28

32--

103

Washington

27

19

30

37--

113

3-Point Goals--Chicago 13-27 (Hinrich 6-12, Gordon 5-6, Nocioni 1-3, Duhon 1-5, Griffin 0-1), Washington 9-18 (Jamison 4-8, Hayes 2-2, Arenas 2-3, Daniels 1-2, Stevenson 0-1, Butler 0-2). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Chicago 48 (Wallace 16), Washington 50 (Butler 10). Assists--Chicago 24 (Hinrich 9), Washington 20 (Butler 7). Total Fouls--Chicago 23, Washington 25. Technicals--Chicago coach Skiles, Wallace. Flagrant fouls--Nocioni. A--20,173. (20,173).

To reach ADAM HIMMELSBACH: 540/374-5442
Email: ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com




Wizards 113, Bulls 103




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